At nineteen, Sebastian is a duke and heir to a vast country estate. A deep sense of tradition binds him to his inheritance, though he loathes the social circus he is a part of. Deception, infidelity and greed hide beneath the glittering surface of good manners.
Among the guests at a lavish party are two people who will change Sebastian's life: Lady Roehampton, who will initiate him in the art of love; and Leonard Anquetil, a polar explorer who will lead Sebastian and his free-spirited sister Viola to question their destiny....
A portrait of fashionable society at the height of the era, The Edwardians revealed all that was glamorous about the period - and all that was to lead to its downfall.
Carole Boyd reads Vita Sackville West’s classic novel of elegance and decadence.
©1930 The Estate of Vita Sackville-West (P)2011 AudioGO Ltd
If you're looking for some insights into aristocratic Edwardian society, this is the book for you. Sebastian, a young duke and owner of a familial estate named Chevron, seems unhappy with his lot in life. Ah, the exhausting boredom of duty! Sebastian seems to want something more than the salons, fox hunts, coming-out balls and nights at the opera can offer--but he isn't really sure what that something more is. He begins to search for it through a series of affairs, telling us later that only four of the women he conquered ever really changed him in any way. The first, the renowned but much older beauty Lady Roehampton, taught him that people of his class in society will always put their position before everything else, even love. The second, a married doctor's wife who first encouraged but then spurned his advances, proved top him that middle class women had the same dull concerns with position. The third, the groundskeeper's daughter, was a lovely girl, but a girl who sucked her teeth could never be accepted by his peers. The fourth, a model, attracted him for her bohemian lifestyle, but in the end, she found Sebastian far too dull. Before long, Sebastian realizes that he has settled into exactly the kind of routine that the adventurer Angetil had predicted and warned him about. And he is trapped, with no means of escape.
Sackville-West, who certainly knew the ins and outs of high society, delivers a subtle but scathing critique of her own kind. While I can't say that I was blown away by 'The Edwardians,' it was an interesting portrait of the duller side of the aritsocracy, with even a little sympathy for their lot thrown in. Carol Boyd was a fine reader for this novel.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
Chronicling two years in the life of upper-crust English society in the first decade of the 20th Century, the novel's principal protagonist is Sebastian, a young duke and heir to the grand estate of Chevron. His widowed mother Lucy's purpose in life is to throw lavish parties for her aristocratic friends. During one such party, she invites an unusual guest, the famous adventurer Leonard Anquetil, recently returned from an Arctic expedition. Anquetil takes a great liking to the young man, and asks Sebastian to accompany him on his next expedition, an offer Sebastian refuses. All the same, the explorer has opened up a world of different possibilities for the nineteen-year old Oxford student.
When Sebastian takes up an affair with his mother's best friend, Lady Roehampton, no one finds this unusual—even though she has a daughter of the same age as he—least of all Lucy, who believes he's chosen his first paramour well. Sylvia Roehampton is celebrated as the greatest beauty in London, and her exquisite features have been immortalized by John Singer Sargent and other famous painters of the age. But as he flits between Chevron to London and from party to concert hall to other mistresses, Sebastian can't find satisfaction, and has not forgotten Anquetil and his offer.
Sackville-West knew the world she described in this novel intimately, and wrote the story as a criticism of the lifestyle of the Edwardian aristocracy, amid which she spent her own cosseted childhood. I was especially pleased with my timing for listening to this novel, being a fan of the series Downton Abbey, which similarly describes the lives of the residents of a grand English estate and which I'd been watching every week with rapt attention. Because of this, I was able to vividly imagine the world and people discussed in the novel, which greatly increased my appreciation for it. It was a pleasant read, though it offered little surprises, perhaps because as a classic it must have influenced many other novels since it's publication in the 1930s. All the same, wholeheartedly recommended. Carole Boyd is among my favourite narrators and does not disappoint.
trying to see the world with my ears
Julian Fellows as well as the creators of Upstairs Downstairs must have started with this 1930 reflection by an aristocrat who lived the Edwardian transition. Instead of the "hard" Virginia Woolf-like listen I had expected from this, I found a lively, accessible comedy of manners. I wish Sackville-West had been more consistent in showing the era through her story than digressing into telling us about what was happening to her characters, bit despite that, it's a gem of a listen, especially, if like me you love the "costume crack" of Downton Abbey (an apt description of that series' fascination by Entertainment weekly). The Edwardians runs a little deeper into the forces behind the transition, but is no less entertaining for audiophiles,
I was looking for Edwardian themes to help me in my Downton Abbey withdrawal but this turned out to be an unfortunate choice. There are a few bits about how the ladies wore their hair/dress, but on the whole, is quite boring. I didn't care about the 'hero' of the story, and the tale ended with a 'whimper', not a 'bang'. This is another title that might help insomniacs get sleepy.
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